07 May, 2017

Mark 10:21—“Then Jesus beholding him loved him …”

And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? … Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me (Mark 10:17, 21).

This text is often referred to as evidence of God loving the reprobate wicked, and, therefore, is an example of “common grace.” The assumption is, of course, that the rich young ruler was a reprobate.


Rev. Angus Stewart

Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the touching scene in which a wealthy, religious leader in his twenties or early thirties, usually referred to as the rich young ruler, comes to Christ and, kneeling before Him, asks about inheriting eternal life.

The good news is that the Lord Jesus “loved” the rich young ruler (Mark 10:21)! This young man is in fine company, along with John, the beloved disciple; Lazarus, Mary and Martha (John 11:5); the believing leper (Mark 1:41); and all God’s people in all ages and lands. “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it” (Song 8:7); how much more the deep, unchangeable, powerful love of God in Christ Jesus from which nothing in the present or future, nothing in life or death, nothing in the universe, not even Satan or sin, is “able to separate us” (Rom. 8:38-39)! All whom Jesus loves, He loves “unto the end” (John 13:1), for He is “the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb. 13:8)!

Christ loved the rich young ruler, even though he was self-righteous and loved money (Mark 10:20, 22). Jesus loved him from before the foundation of the world, when He died for his sins on the cross (John 10:15; 15:13), when He renewed his heart and into eternity. In His amazing grace, the Son of God loved the rich young ruler (and all His people) “with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness” He drew him (Jer. 31:3).

Out of love for the rich young ruler, Christ spoke to him of his sinful love of money, calling him to repentance. The young man went away, as Jesus commanded him, to count the cost (Mark 10:21-22). His grief and sadness was not a worldly sorrow but a “godly sorrow [that] worketh repentance to salvation” (II Cor. 7:10).

As Jesus explained, it is “hard,” even “impossible” with men, for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God, because we are so prone to “trust in riches,” but “with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:23-27)! Our God, the God of the impossible, gave a son to Sarah, a barren ninety-year-old, and her hundred-year-old husband, Abraham (Gen. 18:14); brought Israel back from the Babylonian captivity (Jer. 32:17); and caused the virgin Mary to conceive and bear the incarnate Son of God (Luke 1:37)! He can and did the impossible in converting the rich young ruler, as He has done for many like him, both before and since!

That look of love that the Saviour cast upon the rich young ruler two thousand years ago (Mark 10:21; Ps. 4:6), he continually beholds in heaven from the face of the glorified Christ who loved him and gave Himself for him (Gal. 2:20). What amazing grace and what an amazing salvation for all who forsake their sins and trust in Christ alone and not their own good works or riches!


[See also the following sermon by Rev. Stewart, entitled “The Salvation of the Rich Young Ruler”:


Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889)

[Source: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. II, p. 341]

For, ‘looking at him’ in his sincerity and earnestness, ‘He loved him’—as He loves those that are His Own. One thing was needful for this young man: that he should not only become His disciple, but that, in so doing, he should ‘come and follow’ Christ ... And, although we hear no more of him, who that day went back to his rich home very poor, because ‘very sorrowful,’ we cannot but believe that he, whom Jesus loved, yet found in the poverty of earth the treasure of heaven.



Arthur W. Pink (1886-1952)

[Source: The Sovereignty of God, p. 201]

Concerning the rich young ruler of whom it is said Christ ‘loved him’ (Mark 10:21), we fully believe that he was one of God’s elect, and was saved sometime after his interview with our Lord.



Prof. David J. Engelsma

[Source: The Standard Bearer, vol. 71, p. 321]

However one might explain Mark 10:17-22, the incident of the rich young ruler who asked Jesus about inheriting eternal life and went away grieved, Jesus’ love for the rich ruler was a saving love, that is, a love that desired his salvation. The context concerns inheriting eternal life (v. 17) and entering the kingdom of God (vv. 23-31). If, then, the rich ruler perished in his sins, it is possible that the Christ of God loves a man with a love that desires his salvation, but that He fails, nevertheless, to accomplish the desired salvation. This necessarily raises the further question, ‘Did Christ in His love for and desire to save some persons who yet perish also carry this love and desire to save to the cross?’ For Mark 10:32ff. proclaims the cross, especially verse 45: ‘... the Son of man came ... to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.’ In this case, Christ died for persons who go lost forever. The doctrine of limited atonement is denied. Scripture condemns the notion of a universal, ineffectual Messianic love as false. Christ loved “His own,” loved them “unto the end,” gave Himself to the cross for them alone, and effectually gives eternal life to every one of them (see John 13:1, 18; 17:1ff.). From the fact that Jesus loved the rich ruler, we may, must, and can only conclude that the rich ruler was one of the elect and that, later, he was converted, gladly selling all he had, giving to the poor, and following Christ. Jesus suggests as much in verses 23-27: what is impossible with men is possible with God, even the salvation of a rich man.



Rev. Don Doezema

[Source: Upon This Rock, vol. I, p. 428]

He felt a ‘lack.’ That already, it would seem, is a fruit of the work of the Spirit in the man’s heart. That this is a correct evaluation of the young man is borne out by Jesus’ reaction to him. Immediately after the young man affirmed that he had kept the commandment from his youth, we read that Jesus, ‘beholding him loved him’ (Mark 10:21). That can only be the love wherewith Jesus loves His own. And that love is an efficacious love, a love that accomplishes its purpose.



Robert C. Harbach (1914-1996)

[Source: Studies in the Book of Genesis, pp. 353-354]

In a conversation with the Lord he [the rich young ruler] revealed himself as proud, self-righteous, and Christ-rejecting. Yet we read that Jesus loved him (Mark 10:21). What matters is that we read not that Ishmael ever returned from his banishment in the wilderness to Abraham, the church center! When Lot separated himself from Abraham, he, so far from returning, went farther away to end in a cave with his sodomitical daughters. What matters is that Scripture never informs us of the conversion of the rich young ruler in just so many words! Does not the fact that “Jesus … loved him” inescapably imply that he was then an unconverted elect, but must have been at a subsequent period converted? For Jesus does not love reprobates. We may therefore expect to see both Ishmael and this rich young ruler in heaven. For God blessed the one and loved the other. Both these men, then, must have been in the covenant, although, as for Ishmael, the covenant line did not proceed from him in his generations, but in Isaac and his generations (v. 21).



Prof. Herman C. Hanko

Concerning Mark 10:21: It is my judgment that the rich young ruler was indeed an elect. I base this on the following: 1) He did not “leave” Jesus, but “went away.” [It has been suggested that] “leaving” was a determination not to listen to Jesus. I am doubtful whether that is correct. 2) He showed unusual perception when he expressed dissatisfaction with a mere outward keeping of the law (even though this was exactly what the Pharisees taught) and knew there were deeper principles of the law of which he was unaware. 3) He went away sorrowful because it was difficult to part with wealth. But his sorrow demonstrated that he was sure Jesus was right.  I think I, in his place, would also go away sorrowful, as I considered the inner demands of the law.  4) Jesus, in speaking of his riches, referred to the tenth commandment—which is the perfection of the whole law, but emphasizes the inner demands of the law.  5) Sorrow is a sure indication of salvation—sorrow for sin.  6) An old tradition (certainly not decisive) is that the rich young ruler was Joseph of Armimathea. At least it demonstrates that, from ancient times, the rich young ruler was considered an elect. Finally, I am puzzled by the fact that it is suggested that Jesus did not know His elect. In John 13:1, we are told that Jesus loved His own—to the end. That implies, it seems to me, that Jesus knows who are His elect. And the love Jesus has is for His own.

It is clear from Scripture that Jesus knew things He could not have known in His human nature. It must be that the divine nature revealed things to Jesus that only the divine nature could know. This then would not be a confusion of natures. Whether such revelation to Jesus' human nature by the divine nature was constant, Scripture does not tell us. It may be that the divine nature revealed all those things that were part of the circumstances at that moment. But the union of God and man remains the great mystery—and yet is our only hope of salvation. (Sept. 2nd, 2009).



More to come! (DV)

NOTE:  There were those in the early church who reckoned that the rich young ruler was (a) Saul of Tarsus or (b) Lazarus of Bethany or (c) Joseph of Arimathea or (d) John Mark, all of whom were saved!

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